Guild Theater

33 W. 50th Street,
New York, NY 10020

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RobertR on December 17, 2004 at 11:12 am


Years ago the turnstyle was not that uncommon for neighborhood houses. When I ran the Drake and Haven we had a turnstyle. The Cinemart had one until we twinned it. Most of the porno theatres used turnstyles and even the Cinema Village had one. Some other places I remember with them were Brooklyn Heights Cinema and The Austin. I always thought they were totally tackey for Manhattan. Embassy 72nd Street had one.

Benjamin on December 17, 2004 at 10:50 am

Re: The Guild

I think the most noticeable thing about the Guild (at least for me as a kid) was its turnstyle entrance — which was very unusual for a movie theater. Now that I think about it, it seems this system was common for the newsreel theaters. I guess it’s adequate for their needs and is less expensive than a ticket taker. But I think once they switch from newsreels, the Guild still continued with the turnstyle entrance.

Although I realize that this is probably a very minor, minor consideration, I think the turnstyle — which in my mind was associated with “low class” facilities and entertainments — might have been a subtle turn off to prospective movie patrons. Kind of like, “What kind of theater and movie experience will this be — they don’t even have a ticket taker?! If I want to see this movie, I think I’ll go see it in a "real” movie theater.“ Again, I don’t think this was a major problem, but I wonder if it had a slightly subtle negative effect nevertheless.

I always wondered what the inside of this theater with the unusual entrance was like, and if memory serves I was surprised by how “normal” it was when I finally saw a movie there. In the late 1960s, I saw the Beatles “Yellow Submarine” there. I think it had already been playing all over the place for a while, and this was the last place that was contining to show it.

If I recall correctly, while not an unpleasant experience, it was something less that the “full” movie theater experience — even for a small movie theater. For instance, the small movie theaters on the Eastside have/had coffee bars, etc. — I think the Beekman even had one where you could see the movie through a window. So in some ways, I guess, it was a lesser movie experience.

Re: the underground entrance to Radio City Music Hall

As a curious kid, I always wanted to use this entrance, and if memory serves I believe I got the chance in the late 1970s when I used to escort tour groups to the Music Hall. I think we were assigned to that entrance a few times.

In it’s earlier days (1950s, 1960s, early 1970s), I have a vague recollection of seeing “knowing” patrons of the Music Hall use it as a quick and easy exit to the subway after the show, especially when it was raining. But this is just a vague recollection and maybe it’s a false “memory.”

Re: the stairways around the underground entrance to the Music Hall

Someone asked where did they lead to? It depends on which stairways are being talking about.

Unfortunately that whole area has been rebuilt — desecrated (sp?), in my opinion — and there used to be additional stairways (and additional hallways) to the ones that are there now. (For instance the grandest passageway and stairway, the one directly on axis with the subway, was replaced by income producing retail space.)

But I don’t think any of the stairways in the area lead directly to the Museum that was mentioned in a previous post. (My earliest recollections of the underground concourse, however, are mostly from the mid-1960s. And since the Museum is before my time, this is only a guess on my part.)

My recollection is that most of the stairways around that area were intended as additional passageways up to the main lobby. There was also a very small stairway opposite to the Music Hall entrance that was a stairway to, I think, a mechanical area. It was too small to appear to be a public passageway of some sort. And above that mechanical area would have been a large, movie set-like pharmacy with lunch counters, I believe. Even if this pharmacy had been the location of the Museum, it’s hard to imagine the small stairway that I think people are referring to as being a public passageway to it.

One of the great things about stairways from those times — something that architects seem to have forgotten — is that they often were designed to be an interesting “experience” in one way or another. Some of them, including I think some of the ones we are talking about, had “windows” into storefronts etc. And the larger ones, designed as main entrances for large crowds, were worthy of the Queen Mary or a Fred Astaire / Ginger Rogers movie.

One problem, however, is that they were built for a different “safer” age. So some of the smaller ones, even perhaps those with windows into shops, had I believe “blind” spots that might have made them somewhat dangerous in this day and age.

And the larger ones took up “too much” valuable space and were thus made into rentable, income producing areas.

chconnol on December 13, 2004 at 10:35 am

I went by the old Guild this afternoon. The Build a Bear workshop store is temporary until their 5th Avenue store is completed (imagine what that place will be like…the epitome of chain store insanity).

The doors directly under The Guild’s old marquee are the theater’s doors complete with the turnstile and box office. You can’t make out much of the theater from the Build a Bear store. The upstairs area is closed off.


DonRosen on December 13, 2004 at 10:13 am

The Guild 50th has been featured in a few films and tv shows, most notably “The English Patient” episode on Seinfeld.

irajoel on November 28, 2004 at 10:54 am

I recall using the subway entrance to get into the music hall several times in the late 50’s and early sixties. We always used it on sat. morning for the 1st show. Think it was 50 cents to get in. Don’t recall where we arrived at once we went through the door.

longislandmovies on November 23, 2004 at 6:53 am


RCMH on November 23, 2004 at 6:39 am

RobertR: The Music Hall was a bit more unique than most theatres. Its multiple box offices could be set up to sell for particular areas of the auditorium. The first mezzanine was the only part that was reserve seating.

RobertR on November 23, 2004 at 5:21 am

Thanks for the info, so in a multiple box office house like the Music Hall would each box office would call each other constantly to compare tickets sold?

RCMH on November 22, 2004 at 10:28 pm

CConnolly: the stair flanking the downstairs box office most likely went to the the Museum of Science & Industry, that occupied the space during the 1930’s. The museum space was designed the fill in the was thought to be non-profit making interior space at that end of the RCA Building, actually the RCA Building West.

The passageway from the concourse to the Lower Lounge of Radio City Music Hall most likely has a corresponding passageway theat lead into the lower level of the old Center Theatre. All of the buildings in Rockefeller Center were connected by the concourse.

RCMH on November 22, 2004 at 10:15 pm

RobertR: Before computerized box offices, we did stop selling tickets and did a count of tickets sold for that show. Once we knew the count, we knew how much more we could sell. We never actually sold out an auditorium. We always stop selling with about 50 seats left. These were usually the seats in the first two rows. Peopel did not want to crain their necks to watch the movie. Also, we never sold every seat beacuse in the summertime, no amount of air conditions will cool down an auditorium filled to capacity. The same in the winter, as it it would become very stuffy. Even today, most computerized box office will cut off selling tickest when they reach a certain number of tickets sold.

chconnol on November 22, 2004 at 1:53 pm

RE: the downstairs boxoffice…one more question. The stairs that are on either side of it. Did these at one time lead up to the lobby of the building (not Radio City but the main Rock Center building)? Just curious…Right now the stairs go to a small landing and there is a door but it’s a janitor’s closet now.

RobertR on November 22, 2004 at 1:41 pm

Does anyone know in the days before computer box office systems how theatres with multiple box offices kept track of the seats left to sell? Was it as simple as doing the tally and calling each other?

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on November 22, 2004 at 1:19 pm

The RCMH’s underground boxoffice was only open when seats were available. As soon as the theatre reached capacity, it would be shut down, and you had to go up to the street and wait on line to get to the regular boxoffices. Underground, there was a mirrored corridor with a ticket taker at the end of it. You then entered into the theatre’s downstairs lounge, adjacent to the checkroom.

chconnol on November 22, 2004 at 12:02 pm

TomR: that’s intriguing…that concourse entrance thing. So people would enter the Music Hall from inside the Rockefeller Center concourse to where? The lower level area of RCMH? Was this removed during the remodelling that took place a few years ago?

Thanks for the reply…that box office is funky looking right out in the hallway like that.

RCMH on November 22, 2004 at 8:06 am

This box office was once intended for use by the Music Hall. The idea was guests coming in via the the new 6th Avenue Subway would proceed directly to this box office. Directly opposite, behind a wall, is the old concourse entrance to the Music Hall. In the old day when movioe & stage show was the norm at the Music Hall, this was the entrance used by large groups. The old Rockefeller Center tour used to enter the theater via this entrance,

chconnol on November 22, 2004 at 7:45 am

Hope someone can help me figure this out. If you are in Rockefeller Center inside, downstairs on the lower concourse, right across the hallway from the GNC (Vitamin) Store, there is what looks like a box office of sorts with a set of stairs wrapping around it on either side. Like an idiot, one day I actually walked up thoses stairs and went up and came down the other side (I felt really stupid…). I though maybe this was the box office for The Guild but I don’t think so because it’s so far away from it. It’s obviously some kind of box office or ticket selling window but can anyone tell me what it was for? Radio City?

RCMH on November 11, 2004 at 9:46 pm

The Nautica store has closed and is being replaced by a make-your-teddy-bear store. The building, the former Associated Press Building, was landmarked by the city, which included the exterior features of the old theatre. The re-creation of the old screen curtain can still be seen through the shop windows.

jays on September 25, 2004 at 9:44 am

Wow! that’s amazing because I pass it every day and from the door before they covered the glass on the doors with paper you can see the former seating area and where the screen was. By the way why do the theatre owners or who ever is responsible for closing up a theatre for good always either put papers on the entrance doors or put some kind of covering on the dooway like smudge out the glass I don’t know if i"m saying it right but you can never see inside is this to prevent vandalism or something can somone explain.

dave-bronx™ on September 24, 2004 at 12:37 am

I haven’t seen it, but there are a lot of elements of Rockefeller Center that are landmarked, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this was one of them. Usually a big retailer wants their own design and wouldn’t retain decor from a previous tenant unless their removal was prohibited by the lease. Landmarking makes the property owner responsible, who in turn must make sure the tenants also comply, so they write it in the lease.

jays on September 23, 2004 at 11:45 pm

the Nuatica shop which now occuppies this space is either closed or renovating becuse I see no activiy or manneqins in the window. It looked like Nuatica tried to keep a little of the look on the exterior and some on the interior because where the screen once stood there are store advertisements with a black masking on either side and curtains as well. like the old cinema can anyone confirm this.

RonMotta on September 20, 2004 at 1:46 pm

This was right across the street from NBC Studios. When I worked there as a Page, me and other pages would go to the movies if we got off early enough.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on August 17, 2004 at 4:12 pm

My mother would never stand on line for any movie, not even for one at RCMH, so we always ended up at the Roxy. We always walked right into the Roxy, though we went for the first show in the morning, which started around 10AM. Once inside, my mother knew a short cut to the first balcony, where we aimed for first row center seats and usually got them.

VincentParisi on August 17, 2004 at 1:27 pm

In the early 70’s when it played family fare I remember the Guild would get the spillover of the holiday crowds from Radio City. Yes, the Music Hall still had lines in the very early 70’s for their holiday shows. Kind of like what I heard about the 50’s. If the lines at the Music Hall were very long people would go to the Roxy instead. Imagine having such a choice!

kelley on August 17, 2004 at 12:44 pm

I remember this theatre when my family moved back to NYC around 1959. I saw THE MOUSE THAT ROARED among other films at this nice little theatre.

br91975 on August 17, 2004 at 11:33 am

They’ve got plenty of disposable income… and they’re apparently spending it somewhere else. Nautica announced last week that they bought out the remaining 12 years of their lease, pointing to the ever-so-fickle spending habits of teens as one of the main reasons behind their decision.